I wrote this in Oct 2005 after Andrea started her second round of Chemo. It is one of my favorite things I have written because it came to me the moment I sat in the chair and I wrote it in about 5 minutes. It was an amazing experience the and this is an attempt to capture the feelings that poured over me.
I want to share with you an experience of mine this past week. It brought me closer to what Andrea is going through.
It happened this past Tuesday at Andrea’s 10th chemo. Ever since this ordeal started in 2003 I have watched Andrea and I have been amazed at her strength. Although we all have gone through this with her is some form, some have been there physically and some have been there through e-mails but never the less we have all experienced a portion of what Andrea is going through. But none of us have gone where Andrea has had to go. I first felt this when Andrea was taken away to surgery. I had been there when the doctor said she had cancer and during all the decisions of what the best treatment was for her. I had immersed myself in reading about breast cancer. I even sat in the hospital room with her before her surgery, but there came a time when Andrea had to go where only she could go. It was hard to see them role her away and know she had to face that alone. I learned there were times when Andrea had to go where only she could go.
Chemo #10 is complete. The Abraxiene is hard on Andrea. She fights so hard but it is difficult to see her sick. Andrea is so strong. I know when I see her breakdown how hard it must be. Andrea does not want to stop or give in and she never shows how hard it is. But when I see her cry over the pain, and I see her express how much it hurts, I see the conflict within her. It is hard as her husband to see her hurt and know there is nothing you can do to take away the pain but to ask God to have mercy on her. I had a glimpse into her world this past Tuesday. I have seen Andrea get chemo for months. It is always the same, you sit in the Lazy-Boy chairs, they come with the bags of chemo and hook her up, and you sit and watch it drip by drip go into her. But I have always sat and faced her in that chair. The Lazy-Boy is a place reserved only for her. We all share in Andrea’s treatment in some way, some more then others. Those closest, who see her everyday, and see her at chemo, see her sick; experience this cancer and its costs more then others. Some experience it by reading e-mails. But we are all reminded of what Andrea is experiencing and we stop for a moment and give a thought or prayer for her. But this past Tuesday I got closer to her world and what she is experiencing. I only moved three feet in the physical but I crossed miles exponentially. I wish all of those who are praying for Andrea could experience what I felt.
I thought I understood what she was going through. I knew that although we were walking together there always came a time that Andrea had to go where I could never go. I first felt this when they took her away for surgery. There were times and places Andrea had to alone, I could only go so far with her and then I had to let her go. It is hard, very hard to do. I want to be there for her, to hold her hand and comfort her. But I could not go those last steps. Last Tuesday I felt this again, but it was harder then watching her go to surgery. The funny thing I never left her side, yet I found out she was still going where I could not go.
It happened on chemo day, just like any other day in the Lazy-Boy, or the chemo filling station as Andrea calls it. A place I had been far to many times. A place I have seen Andrea “hooked up” far to many times. Knowing full well she will soon be sick. It had almost become to common and to routine. We talk and laugh, trying not to notice all those around us who look one step away from death and hope we do not look the same, or hope we will not soon be in their shoes. Surely God will not have us go there. Do they look at us and think, just wait; I was once like you before chemo took its toll. Full of life and naive to the reality of cancer. Hoping against all hope I could win, knowing only a few of us will win the lottery, the lottery of life, where the grand prize is to leave this room, and return to life among the living. There are only two paths out of this room, only two reasons you do not come back. We escaped once but it was only a short respite and here we are again. Why, I do not know, but here we are.
But this Tuesday was different. It started out so normal. I would meet Andrea and Lisa at the chemo room. I would usually stay and short while and allow Andrea and Lisa some girl time. This day I stopped on my way to pick up some paint samples to get Andrea and Lisa’s opinion on what color to paint the squadron bar. I arrived one hour into and expected three-hour chemo session. But it was Tuesday after a holiday, the chemo filling station was packed and behind schedule. Andrea had yet to be hooked up. We talked and little and began to look at the colors. Andrea then got up to have her weight and blood pressure checked, then Andrea decided to go to the bathroom before this all got started and I went back to sit with Lisa. For some reason I sat in the Lazy-Boy and began to talk with Lisa.
When I sat down I got a little closer to what Andrea has been going through. You would be amazed how different the chemo room is looking from the Lazy-Boy then it is looking at the Lazy-Boy.
I had stepped closer to where Andrea has gone, where she has to go alone. As much as I could go with her to chemo only she had to sit in that chair and all that came with that chair. I felt closer to Andrea as I sat there. I felt closer to what she must feel every week. I felt closer to the struggle she must be going through. I felt closer to the fight she is fighting. I felt closer to the fear of that chair. I understood the fear she had when she knew she had to go back. The anguish of knowing you are making yourself sick. Of knowing you are bringing yourself closer to death just to have a chance at life. I felt closer but I felt the distance that reminded me that this seat was Andrea’s. I felt the space between us. I felt sadness that she had to go there. I felt closer and I felt far away at the same time. I felt I wished we were not here. I thought I understood what Andrea was going through, but I did not. I felt the enormity of the task before her. I felt the weight on her shoulders. I felt the dread of what was coming. I felt sad for my wife. I felt sad she had to go to such a place. I felt the loneliness of the Lazy-Boy.
Andrea returned, she stood before me and I looked up from the Lazy-Boy and all I could say was…I’m sorry.
I’m sorry you have to sit here. I’m sorry you have to face this. I’m sorry you are sick. I’m sorry you are scared. I’m sorry you have to go here alone.
So when I see Andrea hurting but still going, when I see her cry from the pain, when I see her tired from the fight, when I see chemo take it’s toll, when I watch her vomit, when I see her hair fall out in clumps, when I see her eyelashes thin, and when I see her put on her makeup. I see her trying to hold onto normalcy, to hold onto her womanhood. I see her try to keep life normal to be my wife, to cook for her family. I see her fighting not to give into the Lazy-Boy. Because if you stop all these things you give into the reality of the Lazy-Boy. You get one step closer to those others in the chemo room who are so weak and tired from the fight there is no fight left in them. The Lazy-Boy is their only hope to live, but it is sucking the life out of them.
I know Andrea does not want to give into to Lazy-Boy. She is a fighter and that combined with her faith is her greatest asset and our greatest hope to get out of the Lazy-Boy. God has made her so special. I love her so much. She touches so many people. I think it is because she is so small physically her strength seems disproportional to her size. She inspires with her drive to keep her life normal. When she puts mascara on those last few eyelashes she shows her determination to hold onto life. Those of us around her are challenged in our own life by her example. When Andrea goes out she is always fixed up, matching her scarves to her outfit. I think people are surprised, I think people expect to see Andrea beaten down, but she is not. They have no idea of the fight that Andrea is in, or how much fight Andrea has in her. None of us will ever know unless, God forbid, we have to face the Lazy-Boy and face the reality of that chair. Last Tuesday I felt a glimpse of the Lazy-Boy and the road Andrea walks alone, and I’m even more impressed and humbled by Andrea.